U.S. Markets

Average U.S. mortgage size hits record-high $354,500 -MBA

FILE PHOTO: A home "SOLD" sign hangs in front of a house in Vienna, on the day the National Association of Realtors issues its Pending Home Sales for February report, in Virginia March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The average size of mortgages U.S. consumers were looking to obtain to buy a home or to refinance one hit a record high of $354,500 last week, suggesting resilience in the higher end of the housing market, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

On the other hand, the rise hints that first-time buyers face a challenge in finding their home of choice heading into spring, which is typically the busiest time of the year for home sales, the Washington-based industry group said.

“With more inventory in their price range compared to first-time buyers, move-up and higher-end buyers continue to have strong success finding a home,” Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a statement.

The MBA’s seasonally adjusted index of loan applications to buy a home grew 4.3 percent to 250.8 in the week ended March 8.

Demand for mortgages for home purchases was bolstered by a decline in most mortgage rates last week, Kan said.

The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $484,350 or less decreased to 4.64 percent from 4.67 percent.

Most other fixed mortgage rates that the MBA tracks fell by 0.05 to 0.06 percentage point last week.

However, interest rates on 30-year “jumbo” mortgages with loan balances greater than $484,350 averaged 4.45 percent, up from 4.41 percent the week before.

Reporting by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish